The fight against intolerance begins at home

Britain has a duty to oppose religious and political extremism – be it the English Defence League or the supporters of jihad – in every corner of the land

Victims in retreat: Yazidis fleeing violence from forces loyal to Islamic State in Iraq

Victims in retreat: Yazidis fleeing violence from forces loyal to Islamic State in Iraq Photo: Reuters

The common theme is the politics of division and hate: attitudes and mantras that seek to divide rather than unite. Aggressive secularists would advocate the suppression of religion in the public sphere. Yet this would only perpetuate the message of intolerance towards others. Religion is the not the problem – political and religious extremism is.

The best response is to champion the British values that define our country, many of which are founded in faith. At heart, we are a Christian nation – from the Established Church in England, to the language of the King James Bible, deeply woven into the fabric of our culture. But most important, we are a place of justice and tolerance towards others. Our defence of freedom, the rule of law and the evolution of our democracy have all grown from the seedbed of faith.

This is why Britain has long been a safe haven for persecuted people. Whether French Protestants during the Wars of Religion in the 17th century, European Jews fleeing Nazism, or Bosnian Muslims following the break-up of Yugoslavia.

Our Christian values have helped us to identify and rectify our own prejudices and injustices: the 1689 Act of Toleration that protected nonconformists, the Catholic emancipation of the 19th century, or William Wilberforce’s tireless campaign against slavery. For centuries, these ideals have been the salt and light of the nation, illuminating our international reputation as a just and tolerant country.

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This excellent article in the U.K.-based ‘Telegraph’, refers primarily to intolerance found in the people of the British Isles. However, it has relevance to all us of – wherever we live!

The great enemy of true religion is sectarian, fundamentalist, puritanical religious opinion that has no room for the humanitarian rights of other people. Injustice has no place in true religion – however seemingly religiously-pure its motivation.

God, as Creator, Redeemer and life-Giver of all humanity, is  – at least, in His Incarnate Son, Jesus Christ – the God and Father of all people  irrespective of their ethnic, tribal, religious, cultural or gender differences.

Christians – perhaps above all religious people – should be aware of the need to affirm the humanity and rights of other people to ‘live and move and have their being’ in the world that God has created for God’s glory. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is, above all, the God of Love – dispensing mercy and forgiveness to all according to their capacity to be merciful and forgiving of others. This leaves no room for fundamentalist religious rivalry or persecution.

Father Ron Smith, Christchurch, new Zealand

About kiwianglo

Retired Anglican priest, living in Christchurch, New Zealand. Ardent supporter of LGBT Community, and blogger on 'Thinking Anglicans UK' site. Theology: liberal, Anglo-Catholic & traditional. regarding each person as a unique expression of Christ, and therefore lovable.
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